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curtains: in conversation with kohinoorgasm

Growing up as a brown kid means idolising musicians that look and sound nothing like you. Today’s interviewee is a testament to the fact that this won’t be the case for the generations to come. Desi, queer artists are a breath of fresh air in a world that still fails to recognise the contributions of anyone falling outside the white, cis-heteronormative boundary.

With hypnotic vocals and captivating beats, Kohinoorgasm aka Josephine Shetty is taking a strong stand with her music. The lo-fi experimental pop music project is as powerful as the name. Her recent release, Exhausted is a dreamy track that addresses drained ambition and the stifling of dreams under capitalism. With one album, two EPs, and this new single to her name, Kohinoorgasm’s message is one of abolishing unjust systems, decolonising, and healing the wounds of marginalisation.

In this interview with Kohinoorgasm, we discuss death as a transformation, the fear of the unknown, and the need for revolution.

Push up Daisies: What has your relationship with death always been like, and how do you view it now?

Josephine: My relationship to death has changed a lot throughout my life. I think for a lot of people, death’s meaning is informed by religious or spiritual beliefs, and I grew up with an Irish Catholic mother, a culturally Hindu, spiritually atheist father, and close friends of a few other religious and spiritual backgrounds, so there were a lot of different ideas about death in my upbringing. I could spend a whole page on those ideas and their implications, but let’s just say there was heaven, hell, guilt, reincarnation, caste, lifetimes spent repaying “sin”, nothingness, and a lot of carceral, patriarchal, and often painfully anti-Indigenous concepts that have no place in my current spiritual framework. Perhaps all that kept me searching and open minded, because I have reflected a lot over time about what death means to me, and I am grateful to still be reflecting and learning more lessons about life, death, Earth, the universe, and spirit and to be surrounded by community and friends who are also very introspective about these things.

Ultimately, I don’t know what lies beyond death, and I have a lot of respect for the spiritual and cosmic unknown. It is a lot bigger than me, and I think it’s meant to be that way, so all I can do is have a lot of respect and reverence for the spiritual operations that are just so amazingly beyond my scope of being and understanding. I guess you could say that’s a belief - I believe death is intentionally beyond our understanding, and I respect that.

That being said, there are things I believe for sure about death that are within my scope of being and understanding. I believe you can’t talk about death without talking about life. You also can’t talk about death without talking about how it impacts the ecosystem around it. I believe that there are many kinds of death. Like, death doesn’t just happen to bodies. It can happen to parts of a personality, behaviors, relationships, ways of life, systems, opportunities, and ideas. Along those lines, I believe that death is a type of transformation or evolution. I think when people, things, and ideas die, what really happens is a transformation or evolution to a new form. I am not talking about reincarnation, but let’s say a human dies, I believe that something happens to their spirit in the form of a transformation or evolution of existence. I believe that these transformations and evolutions are very important, and they deserve rituals and ceremonies. Death should be mourned, and transformation should be celebrated. I also don’t believe that the mourning or celebration should ever really stop. I have never stopped mourning and celebrating the loved ones I’ve lost, and I never will.

Furthermore, I believe that the premature deaths of Black, brown, migrant, poor, queer, trans, femme, and disabled people on the account of the State and its horrifyingly genocidal cultures is evil, literally and spiritually. I think it’s traumatizing and has a huge terrible impact on everyone’s relationship to life and death, especially the aforementioned communities, to witness and experience the fatal intentions and impacts of the State. I believe that to heal from this, we will need to see the death of the State, in other words, the transition or evolution of the State out of power completely.

I know a lot of people fear death, the unknown. I think that’s why so many people are resistant to the State’s death. In addition to a vested interest in upholding the State’s order, a lot of people just can’t imagine what would come next and aren’t comfortable with the mystery.

I personally don’t fear death. Sometimes, I am afraid of the pain of how I might die or the suffering of how I know people have and might die. Death and dying seem to be overlapping but different processes, But, I would be honored to return to the Earth, to re-gift the Earth the nutrients it gifted me, to be an ancestor, to become a welcome member of the spiritual and cosmic unknown.

Those are just a few thoughts on my relationship with death.

Push up Daisies: As a creative, how does the thought or fear of death inspire you? Does it ever drive you to create more?

Josephine: I sing a lot about how much of our life is wasted by wage labor, how urgently we need a revolution so that the people of the world can truly live, how abusers rob time through emotional and psychological manipulation and exploitation, how important and rare blissful alone time is, etc. I have a lot of anxiety, thoughts, and pain surrounding how much life is taken from people by systems of oppression, whole lives and parts of lives, taken slowly or instantaneously. These sentiments constantly inform my creative content and my need to create for catharsis.

Push up Daisies: How would you like to be remembered?

Josephine: I am not sure. I don’t know if memory is even the most sustainable or meaningful way to look at my legacy. Some people will remember me for a little while, and I hope they enjoyed me, bettered me and were bettered by me, and so on. I hope some future generation listens to my music, at least as an artifact of an interesting time in the queer brown underground. But eventually, people won’t remember me, and that’s ok. I truly don’t mind being forgotten. I honestly hardly remember what I did yesterday, so I think memory, eventually, turns out to be a hard and kind of arbitrary ask. But, I know the land will remember me, in land’s own way of holding everyone and everything. And, if the revolution is still proceeding after my death, I hope I could be one little butterfly wing flap part of it.


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